This symposium was born as a collaboration between diverse Italian migration organisations – a welfare and cultural agency, a tertiary institute and a museum – each deeply connected with the community, institutions and culture of a cosmopolitan city which is also iconic of the Italian migrant and diasporic experience.

This symposium – the first international conference of its kind – brings together researchers and practitioners from Australia, the United States, Italy and other locations to explore the vicissitudes of Italians and Italian identity in the transcultural spaces defined by mobility.

Five contexts emerge as the main foci of study: (1) Italian historic migration, with some 27 million emigrants between 1870 and 1970; (2) Italian diasporic communities, with some 80 million people worldwide today; (3) Italian colonial history, with some 500,000 settlers at its peak in 1940; (4) Italy as a destination for migrants and refugees, from the 1980s onwards; (5) the so-called new Italian emigration, from the turn of the century onwards.

A transnational approach to Italian Studies, as attempted in this multidisciplinary conference, will develop a multi-perspectival view of Italian cultural identity in movement within the relevant historical frameworks, and thus produce new thinking and a sharper understanding of the ways in which perceived differences are formed, acted on, and reacted to. In this way, this symposium aims to function as a model whose methodology and insights apply beyond the Italian case.

  • What lessons can we draw from the study of Italian communities and culture(s) as they adapt, react and change across different migratory and diasporic experiences?
  • What defines italianità, or even italicità, within the diverse, hybrid contexts of global mobility?
  • How do these studies help us question established notions and practices of multiculturalism, as we enter a new interethnic, inter-racial age, globally characterised by increasingly complex patterns of métissage and integration?
  • What is the contribution of Italian migration and diaspora studies to the development of new theoretical and political frameworks that may foster interethnic cohesion and class solidarity, and counter the rising tide of racism triggered by the current economic crisis and geopolitical instability?

The convenors intend to publish the proceedings of the entire conference as a peer-reviewed book, and a selection of the best papers from each local chapter as special editions of prestigious peer-reviewed journals.